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Akali Dal leaders accuse BJP of ignoring them for too long as Amit Shah holds closed-door meet with Badals

Shiromani Akali Dal leaders criticised the BJP for ignoring them on a number of issues as the saffron party’s president Amit Shah held a closed-door meeting with its top leadership in an effort to reach out to key allies ahead of general elections next year.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2018 21:42 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
BJP president Amit Shah met Akali Dal patriarch and five-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and party president Sukhbir Singh Badal in Chandigarh.
BJP president Amit Shah met Akali Dal patriarch and five-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and party president Sukhbir Singh Badal in Chandigarh.(Twitter/@AmitShah)
         

Leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal on Thursday criticised the BJP for ignoring them on a number of issues as the saffron party’s president Amit Shah held a closed-door meeting with its top leadership in Chandigarh in an effort to reach out to key allies ahead of the general elections next year.

Shah met Akali Dal patriarch and five-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and party president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

“Be it the issue of justice for the Sikh community after the 1984 riots or farming and employment to Punjab’s youth, the BJP has not been fair to the SAD leadership,” Rajya Sabha member Balwinder Singh Bhundar, who is considered very close to the senior Badal, said while speaking to reporters.

Another senior leader and former minister Sikander Singh Maluka said the Bharatiya Janata Party was “late” in coming for talks with its alliance partners. “It is good that they have decided to listen to the SAD leadership. We welcome Shah and hope that the alliance will do better in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” Maluka, who is also the Akali Dal’s core committee member, said.

Akali Dal secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the party will raise all issues concerning the Sikh community and Punjab with Shah.

Besides discussing contentious coalition issues, the Akali Dal and a section of BJP’s local leaders were expected to push for swapping the Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seats during Shah’s meeting with the senior leaders.

The Akalis have been in a deep sulk for long and said they have not been given a meaty portfolio in the cabinet. Earlier, state BJP leaders accused the Akalis of not giving them their due in the state cabinet.

The Akali Dal has opposed the BJP on various issues including appointment of the chairman and members of the National Minority Commission. It has also accused the BJP of not taking all NDA partners into confidence on important issues.

The SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a minister in the Modi cabinet, had threatened to quit if the demand for waiving off GST on purchases for langar or community kitchens at gurdwaras was not met. The government eventually accepted this demand.

The alliance of the two parties did not do too well in the Punjab assembly elections early last year. The Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab, which has been in place for over three decades, was relegated to the third spot in the 2017 assembly polls.

The SAD is one of the oldest allies of the BJP and had been associated with the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.

Shah kick-started his series of talks with key National Democratic Alliance partners, calling on Shiv Sena’s chief Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday as part of the ongoing Sampark for Samarthan (Contact for Support).

He will also meet Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir, and partners in Jharkhand and the northeast.

(With agency inputs)